League Immortal Andrew Johns says the pressure is on Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans, as the side looks to end a horror run that has seen them drop out of the top eight.
The Sea Eagles have won just two of their last seven matches, and with the worst points differential of any side in the top 10, they’re effectively two wins outside the top eight with just seven matches remaining.
It’s a far cry from the situation they found themselves in after six rounds, when the Sea Eagles were in equal fourth and seen as a genuine title contender.
The next three weeks could extinguish their finals chances altogether, unless they can find a way to beat Newcastle (currently 6th), Souths (7th) or Melbourne (2nd).
Manly’s season finishes with matches against the Tigers, Bulldogs, Titans and Warriors, but by then they might be playing for pride only.
The continued absence of star fullback Tom Trbojevic has been a massive blow for the club. He injured his hamstring in June and broke down again a month later when going for a light run.
Trbojevic will be joined on the sideline for the next month by Addin Fonua-Blake, after he suffered a knee injury in last week’s lost to New Zealand.
According to Johns, now is the time for Cherry-Evans to step up.
“I’ve been disappointed in Daly Cherry Evans,” Johns told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth.
“I think defensively, last week he missed some really, really bad tackles.
“If you’re the captain, it’s one area where you really have to aim up, defensively.
“Being captain and under pressure, (with) players out, that’s your job, you’ve got to lift.”
New South Wales Origin coach Brad Fittler says the next few weeks will decide the Sea Eagles’ fate, starting with Sunday’s match against Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“If they lose many more, they will lose grip with the eight,” Fittler said.
“No Addin Fonua-Blake this week and Marty Taupau got knocked out last week pretty heavily.
“The Knights are flying at the moment.”
The Manly skipper has acknowledged the team faces a crucial period if they’re to play finals footy, but says the team is up to the challenge.
“One thing we do pretty well is address what went wrong on the weekend,” Cherry-Evans said.
“As disappointing as the last couple of weekends have been, we do feel pretty excited to go up and play Newcastle this weekend.
“This week is about us. We need to start showing more belief in our processes and our structures.”